Journeys in Space Chapter 1 Change of path and disaster.

Change of path and disaster.

It is the 20th day of the year 1504 since the founding, of the Sword World Confederation, or 20-1105 Imperial date, and four acquaintances are gathered in the lounge of the Oculus inn on Sahal the moon of Biter in the Biter system. They are waiting for the arrival of Lady Susan Inovoa who is going to employ them. Each of them has just left their current career to find a new way, there own way in the stars.  Dag Holstien, a career customs sergeant, whose last and current post is here, is fed up with the desk work he has been given for the last few years, and has signed up with Lady Inovoa. Lady Susan has hired him to be part of her crew as she uses her Yacht the ‘Lazy Susan’ to tour her family holdings in various systems. She has gone for a mix of imperial and Sword Worlder crew as her holdings are both in and out of the Imperium. Urgen Stumberg, whose last job was as a corporate manager, where he had contact with dag, has been hired for his business and diplomatic skills and his ability to survive various mishaps to act as a business advisor! During the last 16 years he has gone from literally crashing out of the space navy flight school, where he met Nerdus, to going bankrupted while helping run a merchant brokerage. Dag has been hired for his leadership and people skills to act as her personal assistant, skills he picked up in 16 years of law enforcement during which he met Shan and Ergen. Nerdus has been hired for his all round ship skills to oversee engineering and act as 1st officer, skills he has picked up after 16 years in the space navy’s engineering and gunnery section. He has just finished a flight training course at the end of his career, setting him up for this job, during which he met Dag having been Urgen’s engineer, earlier in his career.   Shan Oslo has been hired as a gopher due to his range of abilities all picked up during his 16 years in the scout service, as was his cybernetic left arm. His fiancé Petra Herz, who he met when she was nursing him after losing his arm in an accident, is in the process of transferring to a hospital here. He met Urgen while Urgen was involved in a legal case and joined Nerdus’s gambling ring some years back. There transport here and there hotel rooms have been paid for and they are now awaiting her ladyship’s arrival, staying in the Oculus Inn in the Oculus crater where the main settlement on Sahal is.   All of them were chosen due to there colourful past’s which was part of the job description, Lady Susan wants some interesting company and people who can handle themselves, the rest of the crew are already with her on her ship which is due in system today.

Biter is a small minor world on the fringes of the Sword World Confederation, a collection of 32 star systems adjacent to the Imperium, it is a backwater ignored by most; it has a population is in the millions with a thin atmosphere and low gravity. It is primarily an agricultural world, producing textiles and luxuries for richer planets. The planet’s large moon, Sahal, where are group of friends are, is mined for tritium, an isotope of hydrogen used in fusion reactors. The moon is nearly as big as the planet and could almost be call a twin planet its population is in the tens of thousands. Over the decades, the concentration of industry and technology has led to Sahal becoming the most influential and wealthy region in this system. The nobility, industrialists and corporate executives of Biter live on Sahal’s underground cities and domed settlements, looking down at the benighted world below.

The main settlement on Sahal is Oculus, a city of a few thousand people that expanded out from the first tritium harvesting operation. The city is built into the floor and walls of Oculus Crater. Underground tunnels link Oculus to outlying settlements and bases. The richer nobles have mansions built into upper crater walls; the higher up the crater, the more prestigious the location. Factories, shuttle ports, fusion reactors and lower-class housing are located on the crater floor. Tunnels are the main way to get around the city, and the major thoroughfares are wide boulevards, which are designed to look like a street on an Earth-like world. The ceiling’s have holograms of blue skies, while plants grow along the sides of the walkways. There are free six person tunnel carts which you can use to get from place to place, they self drive and take power from the main grid.

Shan, Dag, Nerdus and Urgen have been here for a couple of days getting to know the place and each other again, after registering there arrival here with the port authority.  Dag a fashionista has been looking at the fashionable shops and the expensive gadgets and goodies of the very rich and attending parties. Urgen has spent the time carousing, hoping he will be paid soon as he is nearly broke.  Nerdus meanwhile went gambling using some of the 100k of credits burning a hole in his pockets. Shan visited a medical unit to have his left arm cybernetics checked out for there annual service.  They are expecting the Lazy Susan to arrive any time now and are waiting for Lady Susan in the hotel having got a message that the yacht will be landing at the shuttle port in around 30 minutes.

The ground quakes as they hear the sound of an explosion the lights go out, then are replaced by sickly emergency lights. The city’s computer system begins reciting emergency procedures, telling everyone to report to the nearest emergency shelter and wait for instructions from security.  As they take this information in they notice that moving people heading in a run for shelter are floating rather than moving normally. “Gravity is out” says Dag, “that puts as at 1/6 normal”. Unfortunately, unknown to the four and to most others, the main security tower was destroyed in the explosion and it will take some time for junior security staff to respond to the crisis. Automated systems announce that there is an emergency at Oculus shuttle port and that all vessels in Biter orbit should stand by for further instructions. The characters are soon contacted via their personal communication transmitters by Rai Astasi, a communications officer at Oculus City’s security centre. She is young and inexperienced, but she’s also the ranking officer left after the explosion and she is taking charge in this crisis. She has identified the people that can aid in the crisis and is calling upon any ex-military personal to aid the rescue effort, the computer has flashed up that Shan, Dag and Nerdus have all been in government service and in difficult situations before and might be able to help. Quickly the four of them agree to help and ask for more information.  So Rai fills them in on the current situation – a shuttle has crashed and somehow disabled main power across Oculus City. She is co-ordinating the rescue effort and is calling in aid from the planet below and from other settlements on Sahal but there are two groups of people who are trapped who she has no one else  to send to help and she would like the team to aid them. Life support is failing, so they will have to act quickly.

The first group are in the outlying habitat dome, Morningside Dome. Two to three dozen people took shelter there but the dome is damaged and slowly leaking air. Rai wants the team to get the people there to the shuttle port, where they can be picked up. No-one in the dome is answering their comms which is strange. The second group is a group of workers in a new set of tunnels beneath the city. They are trapped down there – an airlock has sealed itself behind them and refuses to open. One of the workers, Herik, has a comm-link and Rai can put the rescue team in touch with him; he will then be able to guide them down into the tunnels.  After a quick chat among themselves the group decided, after checking with Herik, to investigate the Morningside Dome first and look around for a transport-cart.

The situation at the Morningside Dome, which  is located on the eastern edge of the crater, in the shadow of the rocky walls. The moonquake caused tons of debris to collapse on top of the dome, damaging its outer shell. The dome contains new housing modules, as well as one of the larger open indoor spaces in Oculus City, an artificial garden. When the impact of the shuttle crash and reactor explosion rocked the dome, the inhabitants gathered in this central space. One of the loudest voices in the dome was that of Roget Viers, a former marine, who assumed that Oculus City was under attack by terrorists or even alien invaders. Viers has convinced the other survivors to remain in the dome and prepare for a siege instead of leaving. He has whipped them into a frenzy of paranoia and they now believe that the rest of the city is filled with rapacious terrorists and thieves.

Finding that all the carts have no power, due to the system being down, Nerdus looks around to find something he can shoe in and jury-rig a power source. After a few minutes he finds a servitor bot, street cleaner type, and removes its power pack and making use of his knowledge of engineering power and electronics gets the travel cart going. The four jump in as the auto command searing is out Dag takes hold of the little joystick and starts to drive down the wide emptying boulevards towards the Dome some 10 to 15 minutes away. As they pass through the streets they see people still run-floating to safety then as they round a corner they see a group of seven people ransacking a jewellers shop. Dag keeps driving past while getting Urgen to report it to security; Dag also notices that although the stuff they are looting looks expensive, his window shopping over the last few days tells him otherwise as this is a fashion shop selling cheep jewellery for a considerable mark-up.

The four reach the airlocks separating Morningside Dome from the commercial area they were in. trying the airlocks they find that they are locked. Nerdus using his computer skills hacks the system and finds that it has been deliberately locked from the other side, unfortunately doing this set off an intruder alarm. With the warning light flashing Nerdus continues to work on the system accessing the video feed from the airlock doors to check if anyone is around.  There does not appear to be anyone around but as the group discusses what to do next they suddenly realise that Nerdus’s tampering has been transmitting there image and voices from the video units. Making use of the error, Urgen calls on those inside to let them in as they have come to rescue them. However there is no answer from inside the deserted looking area. Seeing the two emergency Vacc-suits hanging by the airlock Dag and Urgen start to don them just in case of total depressurisation. While they struggle to do that with unfamiliar suits, Nerdus gets the airlock open and shuts down the alarm and video feeds. At this point Rai reminds them at this point that the dome only has another hour and a half’s air left. With the two air-lock doors open they all get back on the cart and drive on. Spotting two more Vacc-suits on the other side of the air-lock Nerdus and Shan grasp them and quickly put them on, showing the other two how having experience in Vacc-suits helps in getting them on.

Moving on into the curved corridors they head towards the garden at its centre. Suddenly as they pass some door two armed citizens jump out behind them.  “Stop, keep your hands from your guns”, they shout.  “We are here to rescue you” Urgen says. “No you are terrorists” they say back, “you are under arrest”.  Eventually Urgen convinces them they are not a direct threat and one of the two citizens jumps aboard to guide them to Viers, an old marine, who has taken control and organised them in defence. Reaching the central garden they see a big man holding a weapon which looks like an assault shotgun with around three dozen other people around him. Viers seeing them approaching challenges them as to what they want. “We were sent to get you out to the shuttle port” say’s Urgen “sent by security they were worried by your lack of communication”.  After a few minutes debate Urgen convinces Viers that what he is saying is true, and Viers orders them all to prepare to move out. Putting the wounded on to the cart and leaving Viers to take charge, the survivors’ are sent on there way towards the shuttle port and safety.

Having saved 37 people the team now decided to try and rescue Herik. From its humble beginnings as a tritium mine, Oculus City has expanded in all directions, especially down. Thick layers of regolith protect the citizens from the lethal radiation of space. When Flight 10 crashed, Herik and his work crew were excavating a new section of tunnel 50 metres below the surface. The impact caused an airlock to shut behind them, trapping them underground. Herik warns the characters that the deep tunnels are dangerously unstable and that they really shouldn’t risk their lives by going that far underground. Instead, he suggests they head to the control room for the mining robots. The characters will have to put on vacc suits and filters, as the caves are freezing cold and airless. The tunnels are also outside the artificial gravity of the city, so the gravity drops from one-G to one-sixth G, though of course it is that everywhere due to the power loss. Herik has mapped the tunnels and worked out a route for the four heroes to reach the mining control centre, where they can get access to some mining robots. The robots can then be ordered to move to Herik and free him and the other two workmen from there situation trapped in the mine tunnel.

During a forty minute trek through the airless tunnels the party has to cope with the low gravity, luckily they had already donned the vac suits they found earlier, and try to avoid getting caught on any jagged rocks or causing a rock fall.  Unfortunately Nurdes for all his other abilities was not so good working in a confined space and during one of his jump walks moves he hit the roof and caused some rocks to fall on him. Dag quickly took his helmet off, knowing he had to work fast in the low atmosphere and cold, and applied some first aid to Nerdus head. This was the only incident on there journey to the control centre which they eventually reach.  There are computer terminals here; Herik and his crew use these computers to remotely manage the robot miners. Over the comm., Herik suggests that the team go no further into the caves. Instead, they can use the computers to send the mining robots down into the deep tunnels to cut through the airlock and free him and his crew. As Nerdus looks at the controls to work out what to do, he notices that the display shows a map of the tunnel network and there is a flashing warning icon beneath the shuttle port. According to the computer, the tunnels beneath the port are in danger of collapsing and need to be reinforced. Not sure what to do they talk to Herik and Rai.

As the shuttle port is the only link of world it is important that what’s left of it stays open so the opinion is that it must be saved. However there is no way for the team to get there in time but they can send the mining robots to repair the problem. They have gravitic supports that they can deploy to shore up the damaged area. However, if they send the robots to save the shuttle port, then they will have to save Herik and the other two workers themselves. When they ask Herik what to do, he will urge them to send the robots, then escape themselves, and not to worry about him and the other workers.

There are two functional mining robots in the control room, there is another dismantled one but it would take to long to reassemble.  They are large cylinders that float in the air and are covered in drills, particle beams, probes and other sensors. The deployable gravitic supports are stored along the flanks of the robots and can be removed manually. These are dumb robots, with only minimal initiative or intelligence of their own so must be ordered by remote to perform a task. The group bite the bullet and send both robots off to deal with the port tunnels and then decide to ignore Herik’s advice and go and save him anyway. While Nerdus is getting all this sorted out the others notice that they have a bunch of messages on there comm.-units. These are all from Yaj haut-Epp, a noble of Oculus City. He was monitoring the group’s communications with Rai and knows they are competent and mobile. He demands that they come and rescue him first of all; he’s trapped inside his mansion and wants an escort to the shuttle port. He will pay them handsomely if they aid him.  They report the messages to control and leave Rai to deal with it for the time being.

The group pick up some spare air tanks and head back into the deep tunnels, to rescue the miners. Following Heriks directions they work they way through the mine shafts, but again Nerdus dislodges rocks and this time so does Dag. Urgen checks them out with his para-medic skill and they continue on. Reaching the airlock they see that it is well and truly jammed and only a large amount of force or the use of some mechanical engineering skills will get it free. So once again Nerdus gets to work using more of his navy learnt skills, eventually he frees the lock mechanism and with just an hour of air left the miners are freed and given new air tanks. Now they have to negotiate the tunnels back to the control centre again.

Through the winding passages they go, trying to avoid any more rock falls, unfortunately this time the weary group of travellers, miners and heroes, cause a major fall and all of them are injured from rocks hitting them. Getting to the control centre they remove the vac-suits and  use the medical kit there to take care of there wounds.  After over two hours of rescue work they are starting to feel the worse for wear with many cuts and bruises particularly Nerdus who has been hit three times. Checking there comm.-units they realise that Yaj is still shouting for help and that the four looters are nearly through his door. Calling him up, they say that they will help him for 50,000cr, a large sum but one he agrees to quickly. “Come quickly”, he says “I am not sure how much longer the door will hold.”  Dag and Nerdus with the help of Herik remove a mining laser from the dissembled robot and carry it and its power pack with them. It is a big heavy device but they hope it might intimate anyone hostile.

Hastily moving there weary bodies back to the main dome and then heading to the area of the grav elevator, which would take them up to the rim were the mansions are if it had power. The haut-Ebb mansion is located in the crater wall, overlooking the Morningside Dome. Normally, visitors arrive by air/raft or by the high-technology grav shaft that rises from the tunnels on the crater floor to the mansion high above. With main power down throughout the city, the obvious way up is via the emergency access stairs that wind around the grav shaft. Just as well the gravity is off as they can make there way up the hundreds of steps at quite a pace, with Shan leading the way due to his stealth and recon abilities. Once they reach the top they can see the main entrance – a blast door. It’s a richly decorated, ornate and very pretty and elegant blast door but it’s still a blast door. The sort of blast door that says, ‘I value my privacy, especially where tactical nukes are concerned’. With no one around Shan listens and hears the high pitch screaming of someone in terror. However the door lies in bits disassembled by a lot of force and time, the four heroes realise that the looters came with intent. Dag and Nerdus shoulder the laser and the group follow Shan in to the luxuriant mansion.

Shan moves ahead and using his recon abilities moves around the mansion to find out what’s going on. He soon realises that there are no servants around but a lot of robots, eventually following the noise he finds a lavishly furnished largish room with five people in it. A large human male, carrying an assault style rifle weapon, who appears to be arguing with a slight but intense woman, who appears to be called Orri, about what to do with the noble. She wants to kill him and make a statement about rich pigs while he just wants to rob the place and go. The other three people appear to be Ebb himself and two other looters both armed but one is a small canine like humanoid, a Varger, armed with a big blade.  Reporting back to the other Shan lets them know what’s ahead and they make a plan together. Rather than confront the looters directly and threaten them with the big mining laser, they decide to sneak up and gun the main two down from the doorway.  Dag, crouching, with Shan standing over him, take up position to the left and aim at Trager. While Nerdus, laying on the floor, with Urgen standing over him position themselves to the right of the doorway and take aim at Orri.

After making sure of there shots they let fly with there pistols, Nerdus and Urgen both hit Orri with there light auto pistols but only cause light wounds due to her combat environment suit they are wearing. Dag also using a light pistol hits Trager and his round seems to not penetrate so maybe he is wearing extra armour. Shan lets lose with a whole magazine from his light assault pistol sending 12 rounds into Treger knocking him back and causing some terrible wounds to appear on his body. During the next 30 seconds a deadly fight takes place, Ripper the Vager charges the doorway and engages with his blade first trying to hit Shan as he deploys his static sword from his cyber arm, Rippers blade bounces off Shan’s metal arm with a clanging sound. In response Shan swings back but in the cramped space hits the wall and gets his sword and lower arm stuck in the wall. Urgen draws his mono sword and moves to duel with Ripper and protect Shan. Orri, after firing off a shot and receiving more hits, moves to cover to nurse her wound as she has been badly hurt by the light bullets.  Yance the forth looter just runs for cover in a corner behind a big cupboard. Meanwhile the injured Trager, who moved behind a pedestal, has open fire with his Gauss assault rifle firing short bursts of 3 rounds which break open to release 24 needles each.  Trying not to hit his mate Ripper Trager fires at Urgen but due to his wounds keeps missing, the needles piecing the wall and its fancy coverings. Shan freeing himself from the wall moves back to pick up the laser and spends some time lining up a shot at Rippers legs. However by the time he is ready to fire Urgen has finery managed to hit Ripper who has been distracted by single shots from Nerdus. As that one blow from the mono sword cut deep into Ripper Urgen calls on him to give in, Ripper hands over his sword and runs. Meanwhile Dag has been lining up a shot at Trager and this one hits and penetrates causing Trager to throw down his gun after spraying a last burst at Urgen which again misses.

The fight is over, Ebb is safe and starts pouring out his thanks, while Dag starts to collect the nice gun Trager has. Just then they hear sirens and the police come bursting into the room guns out and dragging Ripper with them.  Ok we have this all under control now, this is all evidence and these looters are under arrest. We will need your statements at some point but for now we will get you to a medical unit so your wounds can be healed. As the officials sort out the looters and carry off the guns and other evidence, Ebb works out quickly how much damage has been done and tries to reduce the bounty by that much. However he soon realises that the group will not wear that and agrees to pay the 50,000cr to Lady Susan who will pass it on to them.

The day after all this excitement, as they leave the medical centre, they are mobbed by the press who want the story of there heroic rescue of Herik a much loved person. There pictures and reports are taken and within a month the they will be all over space as the heroes who saved 40 people and saved the shuttle port and therefore even more people from dying. So ends the first adventure of the four friends, slightly richer and slightly wiser, having learnt that there small easily hidden pistols do not throw much of a punch. So now they want something heavier and will be looking out for a supply store. Maybe the cruise with Lady Susan will be quieter than this, but at least it beats pushing papers around.

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